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Comment Re:"it was used for children's writing exercises" (Score 1) 235

I suppose an actor on a stage doesn't _need_ an audience, either; he could applaud himself. Now there are certainly actors who act for the income (many of them are in Hollywood), and there are actors who act out of a desire to have others applaud them (Nero is said to have been one such). But I've seen plenty of people on stage who were there because they genuinely liked to entertain people, and receive the applause graciously; and for many of them, it doesn't go to build up their egos, rather they get enjoyment out of making other people happy.

I'm not saying God is an entertainer, but I also don't think he has an ego maniacal need for someone to glorify him, and he certainly doesn't do it for the money (since he owns everything he created already). But that leaves plenty of other possibilities. For instance, there are some things in the world that many people from across the religious-to-atheist spectrum would agree are admirable (in some sense): the universe, the Grand Canyon, Mt Rainier, a flower... And admiring them does us some good, like getting our mind off ourselves. At least from a Christian (and Jewish, and I think Islamic) perspective, admiring God is admiring the one who created such beauty. And I see nothing wrong with it.

Comment Re: Fun facts (Score 1) 235

"All of the Gospels were, of course, written decades after the fact." We don't know that, although it is a common supposition. The twin books of the Gospel of Luke and Acts (of the Apostles) ends rather abruptly with Paul imprisoned in Rome. That would indeed have been a couple-three decades after the fact. The gospel of Mark was probably written well before Luke, although how much earlier is unclear. It's hard to imagine the early church being founded around Jesus, and not bothering to write down the story of who this Jesus guy was.

It's not clear when the gospel of Matthew was written; probably after Mark, and given that its audience seems to have been more Jewish than Gentile (unlike Luke), and that the Jewish church was probably on the wane by the time of Luke/ Acts, I'd at least guess that Matthew preceded Luke. The gospel according to John was almost certainly later, perhaps as late as AD 90.

"So the degree to which Jesus is quoted with any accuracy is extremely questionable." That assumes that there were no precursors to the gospels. Unknown, although there was a tradition dating to ~AD 130 from Papias, that "Matthew compiled the sayings in the Aramaic language, and everyone translated them as well as he could." If that is true, then my guess is that this would have been done when the church was largely Aramaic-speaking, i.e. Jewish. That could have been quite early. Of course "the sayings" (of Jesus) might have been only a part of the later gospel of Matthew. (There is also a theory that most of the New Testament was written in Aramaic, although that appears to be a minority opinion.)

"...most of Christiandom mistakenly believes that their doctrines come from the Bible, and further mistakenly believe that their English translation is very accurate..." Most of Christendom doesn't read the Bible in English, and most translations into other languages are not done from English translations (although I suppose you consider your criticism would apply to those other translations as well). And it is common to hear English-speaking pastors refer to what the Greek text "really means," although not always accurately. At any rate, anyone who wants to know what the Greek says can learn Greek and make use of the abundant tools to understand it better (including glossed interlinear text for those who don't know Greek).

Comment Re:Computer, what's the answer to my homework? (Score 1) 76

FWIW, using a slide rule taught me a lot about significant digits, including why getting three digits at the 1-end but only two digits at the 9-end makes sense. (It's not just an accidental result of the spacing of the numbers, it really is the case that 99 is nearly as precise as 101.) Also, of course, scientific notation.

Comment Re:If only (Score 1) 76

Sonny, when *I* was a boy, computers didn't...

All seriousness aside, I don't think there has ever been a time when people trusted computers like that. Things like GIGO (garbage in, garbage out), bug, and "To Err is Human; To Really Foul Things Up Requires a Computer" (and perhaps "Data Processing Department — information made complicated while you wait") date back to the 1950s and 1960s. There's also a Doby Gillis episode where he declines to let a computer decide the best career for him, and instead joins the Army. Nor for that matter was there ever a time when people didn't expect a magic bullet for creating reliable software. (That bullet will hit about the same time controlled fusion does, IMHO.)

Comment Re:Statistical analysis demonstrated this long ago (Score 1) 305

I believe you're confusing phonemes (distinctive sounds, like English 'p', 'u' etc.--the sounds, not the letters we use to represent them in writing) with morphemes and/or words. I don't know what study you're referring to, so I don't know which one you mean. But there's an awful lot of interpretation going on. With human speech, it's pretty well known what the range of variation in human languages is, and we can verify it by learning the language. (A similar story can be told for signed languages, written languages, languages transmitted with Morse code, even encrypted languages.) But we don't have any way to verify that a sequence of sounds in a dolphin's utterance represents some concept, or that there's any grammar to the way such sequences are put together in utterances--things which are reasonably straightforward, if not easy, to verify with any human language.

So paint me skeptical, until they create a dictionary that shows the same (under some criterion of "same") sequences being used by multiple dolphins to refer to an identifiable concept.

Comment Re:Was it Helped? (Score 1) 76

Leaving aside the particular points (which others have already addressed), there's another implication:

5) It takes a long time--longer than we thought--for complex (multicellular) life to arise from simple life. The Ediacaran period (just prior to the Cambrian) is near the beginning of complex life, and is dated to roughly 0.6 billion years ago. If the Greenland rocks are evidence of bacterial life 3.7 billion years ago, then it took about 3 billion years for life to make the transition from bacterial to complex.

That in turn probably implies:

6) Life we find elsewhere in the universe is likely to be bacterial, not even unintelligent plant/ animal life.

(6) is a little less certain than (5); one could turn it around and say that if the average habitable planet we encounter is at least 4 or 5 billion years old, we're likely to encounter complex life. But we're back to the one data point problem; for all we know, the rise of complex life on Earth (probably triggered by some kind of cell-level symbiosis that gave rise to eukaryotic life) was a lucky event, and without that we'd all be bacteria.

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